In our recent chat, Siska (Community/Content), sat down with Eddy (Head of Product) to discuss the journey in crafting and expanding NewCampus’ array of programs, products, and services.
Building for Purpose: Balancing Specialisation and Adaptability
Siska: How has the journey of building NC products evolved from years ago to today, starting with Management Essentials, to then branching out to Leadership Essentials and Stakeholder Essentials?
Eddy: When we first started designing Management Essentials, it was like a group of generalists building with one expert. We identified the opportunity; someone was willing to buy the private program. We put together a group of generalists who were not designers by trade and worked with one of our experts from the previous business to build it. We didn't have clear roles for lead coaches, program coaches, or class coordinators. Basically, we had just two people delivering it with the expert. I would say it was a very MVP approach to building a program. We had a client who was willing to purchase this program. We had a general direction in mind, and we worked with the timeline that we had.
Now, with a specialized team, we are much more intentional with program designs, which also means that it takes longer to actually design programs. Previously we could do it in a couple of weeks, but now it probably takes one to two months. That's the trade-off that you kind of get with specialists that you bring on. They have their own frameworks, they have their own process, and you have to respect that and give them the resources they need to execute based on their experience and expertise. That's kind of the difference in building a program from two years ago compared to today.
NewCampus, as a business, has been around for eight years now, and for the most part, for the first six years (from 2015 to 2021), I would say that we were very adaptive, not just to the market but also to our community of users. For example, I can share with you the switch we made in 2021. In the early parts of 2021, we were still delivering our product using the colarning model, where people basically pay a monthly subscription to get access to live workshops at NewCampus.
It was at the start of 2021 when we realized that we encountered two issues. One issue is user retention beyond three months, and the other is a lack of purpose for users. We noticed that a large percentage of our users were actually people in their late 20s and early 30s who were at the stage of their career where they were becoming a manager for the first time. Based on our data from the life workshops, we observed that topics related to management, working with people, and SKUs had the highest attendance.
That was when we talked to the users to get a feeling of what kind of content they wanted more. That was the key driver towards us identifying management essentials as the first cohort-based program that we wanted to introduce to our co-learning model in 2021. That is a very good example of how NewCampus has always adapted based on macro trends and also our community of users in terms of the type of products needed.
Since 2021, we have been really focusing on Management Essentials and bringing that program to the rest of Southeast Asia. Towards the end of 2022 and the start of 2023, we were thinking about how we have done a pretty good job of bringing this one program to Southeast Asia. Now, how can we serve our new customers, the HR leaders, the functional leaders and division leaders, with additional services.
Co-Designing Services with the Community
Siska: How many conversations have you had in total to sum up these services?
Eddy: Since the start of this year, I went on a journey of exploring with our community of HR leaders and function and division leaders of tech companies. This is a very first principle for any entrepreneur. When you think of an idea, you interview 50 potential users, 100 or 200 potential users to validate that idea.
Since the start of the year, we've been trying to engage in conversations with leaders who are already part of the NewCampus community to gain a deeper understanding of the issues they care about beyond first-time manager training. What challenges are they facing in 2023? What problems are they seeking to solve in the next six months? This process led to the creation of a list of services. As we have observed, this is when we begin to notice recurring conversations, repeated topics of discussion, and repeated requests for assistance and support.
That basically became the list of services that you see on the new web page now. It's very much co-designed, co-built or co-identified with our list of community, with our community leaders. The next stage now is more of we know you need support in this particular area, but what exactly do you need and what kind of support do you need? That's the stage that we are at the moment with a lot of our community leaders.
Siska: You see the demand changing now as the company grows, and then there's collaborating, co-designing, co-building. How do you make sure that the products accommodate the different people's development goals? Especially in Southeast Asia where it’s rich in culture. Are there customizable features?
Eddy: At the end of the day, it highlights the importance of having enough resources for your company and your product. Why did we choose to work with leaders in Southeast Asia in the first place? What was our purpose back then? And, is our purpose still the same today? Back then, the very first original pitch that we had was that we wanted to support the development of the next 1 million emerging leaders in Southeast Asia. That still holds true today.
We are expanding our reach through our experience and community, enabling us to enhance our support for the next 1 million emerging leaders in Southeast Asia. In the past, our main focus was on developing a first-time manager program, which aligned with our expertise and the demand from our community.
Two years later, our expertise is no longer just about being able to provide a program for first-time managers. Our expertise now is a culmination of new hires and, more importantly, the community of leaders that we have built, who we can rely on to share their knowledge with us. We can basically solve any people-related issues.
We have the ability to build solutions with experts, with experienced tech leaders, to solve problems for teams or companies that are a step behind based on this other leader that we're collaborating with. How do we ensure that products accommodate the different development skills of people in each organization?
It is really about being able to build the context and knowledge base of Southeast Asian tech leaders, employees, and managers. We have a repository of conversations and knowledge that has been built over the last couple of years with hundreds of users and community members, which includes information on skills gaps and competency gaps.
They will change from year to year based on how the market conditions are, how each country's economic development looks like, and how each company's own growth looks like. We are confident in keeping up with all those changes because, again, we have a very steady group of community leaders and a very steady group of users who then graduate to become community leaders that we can rely on for years to come.
Upskilling for Scalability
Siska: I think there's a commonality in them when scaling from this conversation, people leaders, from first-time managers to any people-related changes and issues. And, why does scaling matter?
Eddy: Scaling is not about being able to serve ten customers versus 100 customers versus 1000 customers. But, scaling is more about how you can do more with either the same amount of resources or fewer resources. At the end of the day, you have to look at the business from a business owner's perspective.
Bottom line matters. Employees, your expenses, and your salary expenses matter. And so, it makes common sense that every single company would always try to do as much as possible with as little as possible. That's the reality of business building, especially now, given the current market conditions.
Budgets are just a lot tighter, which means that you really see the drive from the top-down for budget cuts, unfortunately, a lot of people were impacted. That's why we believe that upskilling matters and is so important. We need to get in early on in businesses to actually support our HR leaders in building a scalable team.
How might NewCampus support a five-person HR team to accomplish what a 15 or 20-person HR team is able to do? I feel that from an employee's perspective, I understand that it might sometimes seem unreasonable, but I believe that's only because we have yet to demonstrate the possibilities. When you face an obstacle in life or encounter something that may appear unreasonable, there are two ways you can react to it, right?
One way is to simply accept it as the reality of things, like an impossible or unreasonable situation. The other way is to see it as an opportunity to do things differently.
With NewCampus, we are truly dedicated to supporting the group of leaders here in Southeast Asia who are seeking opportunities and looking for ways to do things differently. Currently, what matters is scaling. Considering the market conditions and what most companies are experiencing, scaling is of utmost importance. We aim to assist our HR professionals in scaling their internal capabilities and achieving bigger outcomes.